Behind the Curtain: Interview With Joe Dulude II - Makeup Designer for WICKED, BEETLEJUICE and More
Due to the global health emergency, Broadway theaters have found their bright lights dimmed and their houses dark for the first time in history. As the world works together to stop the spread of COVID-19, the theater industry has been put on hold indefinitely - theaters around the world have closed their doors in compliance with social distancing rules, and Broadway has been shut down in full since March 13. The Broadway shutdown has impacted the lives of all who work in theater industry, who are now facing uncertain and unprecedented circumstances.
In our Behind the Curtain interview series, we are speaking with Broadway musicians, stage managers, ushers, bartenders, and more, talking about how they are handling the current circumstances, and discussing the impact that the shutdown has had on the Broadway community.
Today, our Behind the Curtain interview is with Joe Dulude II, makeup designer for Broadway, Off-Broadway and the West End.
What is your job title? Tell me about what you do within the theater industry and how long you've been doing it for.
I have been a makeup designer for Broadway, Off-Broadway and the West End since 2003 (so 17 years) when I designed the makeup for Wicked, which was my first show. My job consists of creating a makeup look and working in collaboration with the Costume and Wig Designers to create the overall look of the characters.
What were you working on when the shutdown was put in place?
When the shutdown happened, I had just finished designing the makeup for Fly at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. I was on a break from theater and freelancing, working on a new Disney+ movie and booked to work some days on a couple of other TV/film projects in the Boston area. I had also been asked if I would be interested in designing the makeup for Blue at the Apollo Theatre and was doing some pre-production work for the new Michael Jackson musical, which was to begin this summer. I also was booked to go on the Broadway Cruise in October and do some workshops.
What has communication been like since the shutdown with the people you were working with? Have you continued to maintain contact with them?
All of the production companies from shows I had been working on were very diligent about keeping in touch about what was happening. Unfortunately what has happened with several of them, including Beetlejuice (which was slated to close on June 6 anyway) and the SpongeBob tour, is they have decided to close. I do keep in contact with costume designer Paul Tazewell, and wig designer, Charles LaPointe as we work often together and they are my friends. We will text and/or call every so often just to check up on each other. I also keep in contact with the department heads from the film/TV projects I was supposed to be working on. I think it's important to maintain your relationships with the people that you enjoy working for and that you care about. I would do this even if we weren't in a pandemic.
How do you feel that people in the theater community have come together during this time?
I think this pandemic has manifested itself in so many ways within people. I see so many people of the Broadway community coming together for benefits and trying to raise money for The Actors Fund and Broadway Cares so that we can help support all of us in the community who are financially, and perhaps even physically, hurt by this virus. I also see a large frustration growing with people as this continues to linger on. But what makes me proud is that we do have organizations like The Actors Fund and BC/EFA and my own union Local 798 who are providing services and counseling and financial assistance to those in need.
What ways have you found to best deal with the current circumstances?
I have been trying to stay busy creatively. I am also a fine artist and started a painting series entitled #MascFem where I am painting drag queens and drag kings that I am being inspired by on Instagram. What I am inspired by is their juxtaposition of the masculine and the feminine so that you get this combination of both. And I am using bright vibrant colors in the paintings as a counter to this sometimes depressing and grey time in our lives. I also have my own drag character called Mr Drag who started a YouTube series called Quarantini: Cocktails & Song with Mr Drag. I write it, act in it and do all the editing for it. I did 8 episodes in the first season and am taking a break to work on a short film that I am planning on shooting in June. I also started a podcast with my best friend and makeup artist, James Vincent called Parallel Drives. Also, staying connected with friends and family has been really important. I do have to say, I am a bit "zoom'd" out at the moment. But a phone call is always good for me.
How do you think this will change the world of theater going forward?
I don't really have an answer to this question as it is a question that I am fascinated to see the answer to. Theater is in itself a big risk. You never know if your show will run forever or close within a week. And now with people wanting to go out and do things again, would they be willing to sit in a theater (even if they are socially distanced) for two to three hours? There are so many questions about "getting back to normal". What if one person there is sick? What if you get sick? Is it financially feasible to have houses at half capacity? Would this change the 8 show week into something more doable and not as taxing on the performers and crew? I think our world as we know it is going to change and I don't think it will be for the bad. But I think this time and this pandemic is helping us take a look at what is important in our lives and how we want to live our lives. And it is also looking at how we deal with each other. So I think that there needs to be the right amount of time for theaters, unions and producers to really weigh out all the options before rushing into anything too soon. It is tough on everyone. I do not have any income coming in right now as all my shows are closed, so no royalties, and also all production on film/TV has stopped with no set date on when it will begin again. So, I understand how hard it is, but also realize that my safety and the safety of everyone around me is more important.
Do you have anything else you would like to share?
I think the one thing I'd like to say is to be kind to yourself and generous with yourself. There are days when I feel fantastic and super creative and ready to take on the day. Then there are days when all I want to do is make a martini and lay on the couch all day and binge watch a show. And both of those things and anything in between is okay right now. We have been on the go our entire lives and this is giving us a chance to think and deal with issues, projects, and ideas that we have had forever but have not had time to even think about. So take the time, be creative, be lazy, be stubborn, be friendly - be whatever it is that you need to be for that moment and know that it is okay. And then figure out how to move on in a positive way.